Tuesday, July 27, 2021

PENNE WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE SAUCE

In my Italian-American cookbook, I make serve this Italian Sausage Sauce over pappardelle pasta.  I love the way the sauce gets into the rigatoni, and now this is my favorite pasta with this sauce.


1 lb mild or hot Italian sausages, about 5 links

1 cup good dry Italian white wine, such as Pinot Grigio, divided
2 T olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 (28-oz) cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes
1 t freeze-dried or dried oregano
1 t minced fresh basil or freeze-dried basil
1 t red pepper flakes, optional
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 lb penne rigate pasta
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese

Remove sausage from casings and place in a large bowl.
Pour in some of the white wine and crush with hands until sausage is in small pieces.
The wine makes it easier to break up the sausage.

Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes.
Add garlic and sauté another minute.

Add the sausages and cook for about 5 minutes, breaking up pieces with a wooden spoon.
Add the rest of the wine and cook until wine has mostly evaporated.

In the same large bowl, pour in the tomatoes and hand-crush them, removing the hard center cores. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to chop the tomatoes.

Add the crushed tomatoes to the pot along with the oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer 30 minutes.

Boil the pasta in salted water for about 8 to 9 minutes, until al dente.
Drain the pasta and pour back into the pot.
Add a couple ladles of the sausage sauce and toss.
Spoon into warm pasta bowls and add a little more sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Serves 4


LEMON RICOTTA CHEESECAKE

This delicious cheesecake is light because of the ricotta cheese and creamy because of the cream cheese. There is no need to bake it in a water bath and you can put all of the cake ingredients into a food processor, almost all at once. It comes out perfect every time. This is a wonderful dessert to serve after a Sunday dinner.


2 (15 oz) containers whole milk ricotta cheese
1 T unsalted butter, slightly softened             
1 T sugar
2 T unseasoned dry breadcrumbs or matzo meal
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature, cut into cubes
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour 
3 T fresh lemon juice
Grated zest of one medium lemon
2 t pure vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt or kosher salt

Put ricotta in a large fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl and let drain for 30 minutes.
Every once in a while, gently press the ricotta with a large spoon to help release the liquid.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter an 8 to 9-inch springform cake pan.

Mix the 1 tablespoon of sugar and breadcrumbs in a small bowl; sprinkle over
buttered pan bottom to coat. Tap out excess crumbs.

Spoon ricotta into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade and purée for a few seconds.
Add cream cheese and eggs and purée a few more seconds.
Add the remaining ingredients and purée, scraping down the sides occasionally, until smooth. 

Scrape batter into the prepared pan.
Place on a baking sheet and bake cheesecake until golden brown and just set, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Transfer to a rack and let cool in pan.
Refrigerate uncovered until cool, about 4 hours.

Loosen cake by running a table knife around the edges.
Remove the cake pan sides and place on a serving plate.
You can also use a large thin spatula to remove the entire cake from the bottom of the cake pan and place on a serving plate.

Dust with powdered sugar and cut into wedges.

Serves 8

 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

ITALIAN CHOPPED SALAD

This is one of my favorite salads. Sometimes this salad is on the menu in a pizza restaurant.  Add whatever you like to make it your own. 




Garlic-Parmigiano Salad Dressing
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 T minced shallot
¼ cup red or white wine vinegar
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 t dry mustard
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 t freeze-dried or dried oregano 
2 t freeze-dried or dried basil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad
1 15-oz can chickpeas (garbanzos), rinsed and drained
2 heads Romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped
2 cups coarsely chopped arugula or spring mix
3 oz Sopressata or Calabrese salami
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes
6 pepperoncini, stems removed 
½ red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup pitted black Italian olives
¼ cup green olives, in a jar
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish


Place the salad dressing ingredients in a jar fitted with a lid and shake to combine.

Place the chickpeas in a bowl and pour about 2 tablespoons of the salad dressing over to marinate for 30 minutes.

Store dressing and chickpeas in the refrigerator until ready to dress the salad.

On a large cutting board pile up the lettuces and chop until bite-size pieces.
Transfer to a large salad bowl.
Do the same with the salami, sun-dried tomatoes, pepperoncini, onion slices, olives and mozzarella.
Chop through them all, until bite-size pieces.

Transfer to a large salad bowl, add toss with some of the Garlic-Parmigiano Salad Dressing.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Top with some of the garbanzo beans and sprinkle with the Parmigiano and serve.

You will have more salad dressing for another salad or two.

Serves 4





Tuesday, July 6, 2021

CLASSIC CAPRESE SALAD

This is the time of the year, if you live where it is now the summer season, to make Caprese salad at its best.  It is so simple and all you need are homegrown tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella cheese.  Authentic Caprese salad does not have vinegar, of any kind, drizzled over it.  The only seasoning added is extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and black pepper.


3 medium-large homegrown tomatoes, sliced into ¼ inch slices
1 (1-lb) ball fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced or log of pre-sliced fresh mozzarella 
1 bunch of large basil leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil (best quality you can find)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Start with a slice of mozzarella, place a slice of tomato in front of it and then tuck in one or two basil leaves.  Working around in a circle until the circle meets.  
Generously drizzle with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 2 to 3

Monday, July 5, 2021

TUSCAN SEAFOOD STEW - Cacciucco

This traditional seafood stew (pronounced cah-choo-co) is popular in the western port town of Livorno in Tuscany, Italy.
It is similar to San Francisco's Cioppino, but less expensive to make, because it doesn't contain Dungeness Crab.  
Use your favorite shell fish and fish, whatever is available at your local fish market.
This morning I bought beautiful, shrimp, clams, and cod at our local country store and seafood market. 


¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup dry red wine
1 can (28 oz) crushed Italian tomatoes
1 T tomato paste
¼ cup minced fresh Italian parsley
1 T chopped fresh oregano
1 t chopped fresh rosemary
½ t sea salt
½ t freshly ground black pepper
1 bottle clam broth
1 cup water
1 T chopped fresh basil
12 little neck clams, soaked in cold water for 15 minutes
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ lbs cod fillets, cut into 2-inch chunks
Crusty Italian bread, cut into slices, toasted in the oven and drizzled with olive oil

In a Dutch oven or paella pan, heat oil over medium-low heat, cook onion for 10 minutes.  
Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook another minute.  
Stir in wine and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.  
Add tomatoes, tomato paste, half of the parsley, oregano, rosemary, salt, and black pepper.  
Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
Stir in clam broth, water, and basil.
Add clams, cover, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until clams begin to open.  
Add shrimp and haddock and cook until fish is opaque in center, about another 5 minutes.
Discard any clams that do not open.
Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.
Ladle into warm soup bowls, sprinkle with remaining parsley and add a couple of toasted slices of bread.

Serves 2 to 3

Sunday, June 20, 2021

PAN SEARED SCALLOPS WITH DRY VERMOUTH

There are two kinds of scallops, sea and bay scallops. These are large east coast sea scallops. Make sure they are very fresh. They should smell like the sea or almost sweet.

They cook very quickly and the secret to browning is to dry them off with paper towels and do not turn them until they are brown.


10 sea scallops
1 T unsalted butter
1 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil
½ cup dry Italian vermouth
Juice of ½ lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T unsalted butter

Rinse scallops under cold water and place on a double layer of paper towels.
Pat completely dry.

Have the butter and oil ready to add to a skillet.
Put the rest of the ingredients into little bowls, ready to add to the skillet.

Season scallops with salt and pepper on both sides.

In a large skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat.
Add the scallops in a single layer, not touching each other.
Brown on one side for about 2 to 3 minutes. 
Do move scallops until they are brown, you can peek under one to see.

Turn scallops over with tongs and brown on the other side.

Remove scallops to a plate and set aside.

Lower heat in skillet to medium-low.
Add the vermouth and lemon juice.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook for a minute or two, stirring with a wooden spoon.
Add the two tablespoons of butter, then return the scallops to the pan and cook another few seconds to warm scallops. Do not overcook.

Serve with pan sauce over scallops.

Suggestion: Serve with a green vegetable and risotto.

Serves 2



Thursday, June 17, 2021

BAKED EGGPLANT PARMIGIANO WITH PROVOLONE & SWISS CHARD

The eggplants are so crispy and are baked in the oven.  I made a marinara sauce with canned cherry tomatoes and sautéed some Swiss chard and that was spooned under the marinara sauce. I peel the eggplant leaving stripes; otherwise, the peel can be quite chewy.


Lee's Kitchen Tips:
I saved the larger slices for the dishes and just had a few smaller ones for my husband to enjoy, plain, right out of the oven.




Baked Eggplants
2 large eggplants, partially peeled and cut into ½-inch thick slices.
1 cup all-purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
2 T water
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cherry Tomato Marina Sauce
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 14-oz cans cherry tomatoes
1 small bunch fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Swiss Chard
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch Swiss chard, trimmed of middle stems and chopped 

In a shallow bowl, add the flour and season generously with salt and pepper.
In a second shallow bowl, whisk the egg with the water.
In a third shallow bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, panko, and grated Parmigiano.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Drizzle some oil on a large baking sheet pan and set aside.
Dip eggplant slices in flour, shaking off excess, then dip in egg mixture and finally in bread crumb mixture.
Place eggplant slices on the baking sheet and drizzle a little more oil on top.
Bake for 20 minutes, flip each one over, and bake another 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with a little more Parmigiano and add a piece of provolone cheese on top.
Place back in oven for cheese to melt, about 3 to 4 minutes.

In a saucepan, heat the oil over low heat and sauté
the garlic red pepper flakes for a minute or two.
Add the cherry tomatoes and mash lightly with a fork or potato masher.  Leave the tomatoes mostly whole.  Simmer for 20 minutes, add basil and season with salt and pepper
Set aside and keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, add the olive oil and sauté
the Swiss chard until soft, about 5 minutes.  
Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
Set aside and keep warm.

To Assemble
Spoon half of the chard in the middle of a plate.
Ladle on some cherry tomato sauce.
Add 4 slices of the eggplant and garnish with basil, if desired.

Serves 2